A masked elderly couple (illustrative image).



Main targets of the new coronavirus, the elderly have been hit hard by the epidemic.

But the latter has also amplified age-related stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination, warns the UN in its very first report on ageism, published on Thursday.

Four UN agencies have come together to produce this 203-page document in an attempt to better understand this phenomenon, when age is one of the first things we notice in the other.

What is ageism?

“We talk about ageism when age is used to categorize and divide people in such a way that they suffer prejudice and injustice, that they are disadvantaged and this phenomenon reduces solidarity between the generations,” notes the report. , by emphasizing how the problem infuses all societies in all fields.

Thus, the UN notes that ageism evolves… with age: “a teenager can, for example, be teased for having started a political movement, older or younger people can be refused a job because of of their age or an older person can be accused of witchcraft and driven from their home and village ”.

A phenomenon that costs tens of billions of dollars

The authors of the report stressed that precise data is sometimes lacking to more precisely identify the phenomenon, which can take very diverse forms, but find that it is very widespread and “is present in many institutions and sectors of society, including including those who provide health and social care, in the workplace, in the media and within the legal system ”.

They estimated that the phenomenon cost tens of billions of dollars each year, for example by making people retire too early on a rigid age criterion and by depriving themselves of their know-how.

The authors estimate that "globally one in two people is ageism towards older people."

They estimate that in Europe - the only region for which they had data - one in three people say they have been the target of ageism, and young people say they face more age discrimination than other groups of people. 'age.

"Fighting ageism"

The pandemic has only exacerbated stereotypes, underline in a joint letter Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the boss of the WHO, Michelle Bachelet, the highest official of the UN for human rights, Liu Zhenmin, in charge of the economic and social affairs of the United Nations and Natalia Kamen who presides over the destinies of the United Nations Population Fund.

“The elderly have often been seen as uniformly frail and vulnerable, while the young are presented as invincible, or reckless and irresponsible,” they write.

“As countries try to overcome the pandemic, people of all ages are going to have to continue to deal with different forms of ageism,” and “we will need to tackle ageism during and after the crisis if we are to ensure the health, well-being and dignity of people everywhere ”.

For the authors, to combat ageism “priority should be given to the three strategies supported by the best evidence, namely: the adoption of policies and laws, and the implementation of educational interventions and promoting intergenerational contacts. ".


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  • Inequality

  • The elderly

  • epidemic

  • Discrimination

  • Covid 19

  • Coronavirus

  • Health

  • Society